Kobe Bryant, Courtney Lee, Kyle Lowry

Winderman: Meet the new Kobe, same as the old Kobe

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At the conclusion of Tuesday’s play, only one NBA player was averaging more than 19 shots per game.

That player, in fact, was averaging 22.3, essentially putting him in a league of his own.

Which, of course, is where Kobe Bryant long has considered himself.

The question now is whether 22.3 is too many, whether it fractures the team concept, whether Mike Brown once again is handing over the keys to an offense, just as he did, without ultimate success, to LeBron James with the Cavaliers.

This, of course, is nothing new with Kobe, who finished second, barely, to Monta Ellis in shots per game last season, 20.1 to 20.0, as the only two players in the league to average more than 20 attempts. And two seasons ago, Kobe finished third in the NBA, behind Ellis and Carmelo Anthony.

The point being that triangle or no triangle, Kobe is going to get his shots and get a lot of them.

When Kobe went 6 of 28 in Sunday’s loss to the Nuggets, Brown said he did not have an issue with Bryant’s shot selection. There was no snarky Jackson-esque aide to indicate otherwise.

As the ultimate complementary player, Pau Gasol continues to be along for the ride.

But for Andrew Bynum, the question is whether so much offense going in one direction isn’t undermining his development as arguably the best center in the West.

The irony, of course, is had David Stern had not blocked Chris Paul-to-Lakers, Kobe would not have the ball in his hands as much, would not be able to decide on his own what is and is not a good shot.

But beyond that, the greater issue is when the Lakers are going to begin transition to something beyond all-Kobe all-the-time.

One would have thought that transition would have begun with the move from Jackson to Brown. But with the roster relatively stagnant, save for the loss of Lamar Odom, it appears it will be same as it ever was.
A lot of Kobe. Scraps for everyone else. With Brown’s endorsement.

To a degree, there simply might not be a need for the Lakers to evolve. After a rough start, after getting Bynum back from his season-opening suspension, after a new tape job on Kobe’s wrist, they seem fine.

Kobe certainly is fine. He’s getting his shots. More than he has in years.

But is that in the Lakers’ best interest? Bynum’s best interest? The best interest of a team caught in the middle of a grueling schedule with a lot of games and little time for rest?

At 33, Kobe is making himself more essential to the Lakers than at perhaps any other point in his career.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at @IraHeatBeat.

Terrence Jones scores 36, leads Pelicans past Cavaliers 124-122

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Terrence Jones filled in brilliantly for injured All-Star Anthony Davis, scoring a season-high 36 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and blocking LeBron James‘ dunk attempt in the fourth quarter, and the New Orleans Pelicans beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 124-122 on Monday night.

Jrue Holiday added 33 points and 10 assists for the Pelicans, and Langston Galloway capped a 12-point night with a clean steal on James’ drive in the final minute, preventing the Cavs from erasing a deficit they had trimmed from 22 late in the first half to three with 1:32 left in the game.

Kyrie Irving scoring 35 of his 49 points in the second half, but the Cleveland fell to its fifth loss in seven games. James had 26 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds.

Two of Cleveland’s recent losses came against Western Conference leaders Golden State and San Antonio, but two others have come against teams currently outside the playoff picture in the West: New Orleans and Portland.

Kevin Love had 22 points for Cleveland, which could not quite keep pace with a Pelicans squad that tied a season high for 3-pointers with 16 and shot 49.4 percent (43 of 87).

Donatas Moteijunas scored 14 for New Orleans, while Dante Cunningham scored 11. Each hit a pair of 3s.

The Cavs drained 15 3s, eight by Irving, whose step-back jumper from long range had Cleveland within three with 21 seconds to go, but the Cavs got no closer until Love’s anticlimactic 3 in the final second.

Embarrassed in a 29-point loss to NBA-worst Brooklyn at home on Friday, the Pelicans were eager for a chance to redeem themselves with a competitive showing against the defending champs. That did not appear likely when New Orleans announced less than an hour before tip-off that Davis would be unable to play because of his right leg bruise lingering from a collision with the Nets’ Spencer Dinwiddie.

Coach Alvin Gentry inserted Jones for Davis as the starting center, and he responded with arguably the most dynamic half of play in the fifth-year veteran’s career. He hit all eight of his shots in the first half, scoring 22 points on an array of jumpers – including two 3s – weaving drives and feisty put-backs.

Holiday, meanwhile, got into an equally prolific rhythm, hitting three 3s and highlighting several impressive drives to the hoop with a two-handed dunk. Holiday’s pullup jumper from just inside the 3-point line with 6 seconds left in the second quarter gave him 22 points and New Orleans a 22-point lead, and Holiday pumped his fist while one of the biggest crowds of the season went wild.

In the last second of the half, James executed a long inbound pass to Love, who converted a quick-release layup to make it 70-50.

TIP-INS

Cavaliers: Coach Tyronn Lue was assessed a technical foul by official Leroy Richardson after the coach chastised Richardson for a late whistle giving Moteijunas free throws following a missed layup. … The Cavs won the teams’ only other meeting this season, 90-82 in Cleveland on Jan. 2. … Irving slung in what would have been a sensational, off-balance, one-handed shot from about 30 feet, but it didn’t count because it came too late after Irving was fouled by Tyreke Evans as the pair pursued a loose ball near mid-court.

Pelicans: New Orleans improved to 2-2 without Davis in the lineup. … G E'Twaun Moore, who is 6-foot-4, delighted the crowd by rejecting the 6-8 James near the basket in the first half. … New Orleans shot 60.5 percent (26 of 43) in the first half.=

 

Heat’s Dion Waiters drains game-winning three to knock off Warriors (VIDEO)

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Last week Golden State crushed Cleveland, Oklahoma City, and Houston.

But none of those teams had Dion Waiters.

The final three of Waiters’ 33 points came on a deep pull-up three with 0.6 seconds left to give Miami a 105-102 upset of the Warriors. Waiters shot 13-of-20 overall and 6-of-8 from three.

This was a night the Warriors just could not get the three ball to fall, shooting 8-of-30 (26.7 percent) from deep. This ended Golden State’s seven-game win streak and extended the Miami win streak to four.

Joakim Noah with as ugly a free throw as you’ll see. And he knows it. (VIDEO)

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Joakim Noah used to be a good free throw shooter, he’s hit 70 percent for his career. But he’s shooting just 42.9 percent this season.

And no miss was uglier than the one Monday night against the Pacers.

The best part of this airball was Noah’s reaction — he knew it was bad the second he let it go.

If you want to draw parallels with the Knicks’ season, go for it.

Stephen Curry finds Kevin Durant for tomahawks slam in transition (VIDEO)

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The Warriors in transition can be beautiful basketball.

And if you don’t stop the guy with the ball from getting a straight line to the hoop, there will be highlights. In the first half Monday night, the Heat did a good job making Stephen Curry give up the ball in transition (not letting him just pull up for a three), but he found Kevin Durant, who found a lane to the basket, and… highlight tomahawk dunk.

It was a two-point game at the half between the Heat and Warriors, after what was a second quarter both teams probably want to forget.